Madison Police Chief: Scale of ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ has been ‘vastly exaggerated’

Logan Wroge:

Over the past three years at Madison high schools, while arrests have dropped and the number of citations has fluctuated, African-Americans continue to predominantly be those most cited or arrested, according to Madison Police Department data.

As the fate of a contract that stations police officers in high schools remains uncertain, Police Chief Mike Koval took to his blog Thursday to back the school-based officers and argue that the department’s data do not support a “school-to-prison pipeline” narrative that opponents say results in minority students being disproportionately put into the criminal justice system.

“While the numbers are at a point where we should still be doing a deeper drill to see how we can continue to improve and mitigate those numbers, the extent to which the ‘problem’ has been described, I think has been vastly exaggerated,” Koval said in an interview.

Koval attached to his blog post a report the Madison Police Department complied using data from the past three school years on the citations issued and arrests made at the district’s four main high schools — East, La Follette, Memorial and West — where a uniformed and armed police officer, known as a school resource officer, or SRO, is stationed during school hours.

“There is no question that the combination of school disciplinary practices and juvenile justice practices, working in interaction, have unnecessarily, disproportionately placed young people in the juvenile justice system,” said School Board member TJ Mertz.

Related: Gangs & School Violence forum